“Tbex is love made visible”
–To misquote Khalil Gibran never felt so right
Last week I participated in my first Tbex conference.
This coming together of like-minded artists in the travel industry has opened my eyes to the potential we have within. From a passionate and lyrical lesson by Don George to the dynamic Dave and Deb from Planet D I emptied pen after pen, spilling ink, high on the goods dished out by some of the industries greatest minds.
We found ourselves in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo in a little town you probably haven’t heard of called Cancun–or Kaan Kun, ‘the nest of snakes,’ in the Maya tradition.
For two days we were corralled within the Moon Palace Resort. This being my first experience at an all-inclusive destination I had my reservations, particularly as a traveler with a focus of the road less taken. Yet, I must say, they have done an incredible job coexisting with the surrounding jungle. Said to be a leader of eco-friendly accommodation, the Moon Palace participates in many conservation efforts such as assisting the growth of local flora and aiding the dispersement of sea turtles, an activity many Tbex-ers had the chance to participate in. I left the resort thankful to see such places from a new angle and would be pleased to be a guest of theirs once again.
Despite my weeks of plannin I walked into the Moon Palace unsure of which sessions toattend. The roster was just impressive this year. These are people i’ve admired since I began my career as a writer and to chose one session over the next was something I had to calculate. Ultimately, the route I chose could not have been more appropriate for my needs at this moment. So the final line-up went as follows–
- Profits and Prestige from Becoming a Published Author with Tim Leffel. From self publishing to the culture of being an author I felt as if Tim were speaking directly to me. His thoughts on finding your niche, your tribe, your outlets for publishing were exactly what I needed to hear as I polish off my manuscript for Yallah’Bye.
- Don’t Quit Your Day Job: You Don’t Have to be a Nomad to be a Successful Travel Blogger with Chris Christensen and David Brodie. What made this session so great was having these masters of the craft feeding us information on creating a powerful outlet without having to be on the road 24/7. This is a topic I honestly stress about-“Where next? How will I get there? Who want’s to sponsor me? Blah, blah!” In the course of this lesson we learned how to utilize past trips and virtual tourism to create authentic articles for blogging. From writing product reviews to “how to’s” sometimes all it takes is a little research to write a great piece on a place we’ve yet to visit.
- From Pitch to Profit: Earning Money with Your Brand with Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbell from Planet D. It is said that writing is a lonely profession -so is travel- and some of us struggle with a double dose as travel writers. A sure way to beat the isolation is to find your kindred spirit, a partner in crime. And, that’s just what we have here. I had the pleasure of hanging out with them between sessions and have to mention how personable and entertaining these two Canadians are. Our session dove into brand partnerships and how to build long lasting relationships, because that’s what this is all about. To be successful as a travel blogger, or writer in this modern world, it is crucial to build a solid network. The value of knowing your worth is essential to success and we learned that as content providers we have a right to stand up for ourselves, for our worth, and to not negotiate against yourself, despite what may arise. Oh, and always read the fine print! Don’t be that sucker who signs over their masterpiece out of sheer laziness because a contract may be a little lengthly! We are powerful content creators. Embrace it!!
That night, under the guidance of Expedia-we partied to the tune of an open bar as an incredible spread of seafood and Mexican fare was spread before us.
- Video Blogging: First-Person Storytelling As A Powerful Marketing Tool w/ Lisa Schwarts. This was a challenge for me as I haven’t shot a single video through the course of my travels. And, that’s not acceptable. To be successful is to lead a multifunctional brand. Anyway, I have an iPhone and that’s a great place to start. Despite this session being advanced for my background I now know where to start. From utilizing music to branding and marketing, the talented ladies behind Bare Feet and Vagabond3 offered us a great way to vlogging and i’m extremely excited to enter that realm.
- The Quality Quotient: Ten Tips for Creating Content that Engages and Expands Your Audience with Don George. One hour was not enough to contain this craftsman. Being a reader of his for years and having just finished the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing, which he penned, I entered the arena starstruck.Don opened with his Four Pillars of Engagement- which are the Subject, the Self, the Audience, and Your Own Writing- then moved on to the Passion Points– the “where and why” of your story, what makes this location special and how to define it. How to focus on the stepping stones that guide you along your journey and reveal the valuable lesson that will be the purpose of your story. Capture this lesson and allow the details to spill forth. Utilize all of your senses. Take in the aromas, textures, noises, sensations that illuminate your story. And most importantly, the story is not about me, nor you, rather the place. The purpose of penning an experience is to cast light upon a moment in time. A place which is begging to be embraced by a readership across the globe.He closed with a Q&A as I fought to keep my notebook from catching fire- pen blazing an illegible hybrid between long and short form. A lesson with Don George-priceless
- And, then this happened– As the third session rolled into place I ran into Samer Abu-Taleb, an associate for the Jordan Tourism Board. Yes, please! How damn fortuitous and how did I not realize he, they would be here? So, I skip the last lesson to have a great conversation with this Jordanian expat. As my readers are well aware, this connection is easily one of the most valuable i’ve made in this career, considering that I have something of an obsession with the Hashemite Kingdom and a blazing passion for the Middle East. We discussed Kanafeh (in case you missed the article in which I profess my love for the Arabian pastry you can catch it here–How To Kanafeh), the need for eco solutions to traditional tourism in the region and the unwavering kindness of Middle Easterners. I’m still high from this meeting.
Tbex closed with a passionate discussion on professionalism and the question of whether or not travel blogging is a sustainable venture–the answer? Yes, and no. In this ever-changing industry between technology and escapism we must be willing to embrace both new and old approaches to success. Without this fluidity we will be left behind with the troglodytes, who still refuse electricity.
A special thank you to-
- Alex the Crazy, Sexy, Fun Traveller
- Robin at Globetrotting Junkies
- Sergio Sala who acted as my unofficial cultural guide while in Mexico. This guy has an addicting personality and I’m excited to see what he can achieve.
- Tim Anderson. This is one brilliant yet mellow leader in the industry. I’ve been following his work since I began blogging and I insist that you check out his brain child Marginal Boundaries based in Palenque. If all goes well i’ll be joining them in a travel blog boot camp this winter. So i’m extremely to have made this connection.
- Maggie aka Mags On The Move
- Don George
- Tim Leffel
- Dave and Deb with The Planet D
- Rick Calvert with New Media Expo. I had the pleasure of hanging out with this guy on the opening night and, man, this is one authentic, thoughtful human.
- Nathanial Boyle with the Daily Travel Podcast. We met by chance, in passing really, and just hit it off. In the last hours of Tbex we discussed podcasting, Mexican buffets and his insane journey across the globe. Since returning home i’ve been listening to this podcast religiously. Interviewing people such as Chris Guillebeau and C.C. Chapman these podcasts are massively inspiring for anyone within the industry.
*It would be a hell of a task to drop all the names of those who guided and enlightened me along this journey.
Overall I came to understand the authority we hold as bloggers and leaders in the industry. It is our duty to represent the planet from a perspective that will promote sustainable travel and remain compassionate to other cultures, industries and the environment.
To all of those who have supported my writing and venture into this uncharted territory, thank you. I do realize the importance of my readers and am fully aware that you are just as valuable as my content. So, again, thank you.
This coming together of people in support of one another was truly love made visible.